“Just be who you are.” This parental advice is probably pretty familiar to all of you. Throughout your childhood and teen years you are encouraged to express yourself for who you are and not to get lost in trying to fit in. The advice seems straight-forward, so straight-forward it often gets overlooked. For about 13 years of your lives, you go to school with basically the same people, with the same clicks, and are categorized into “who you are” before you even make it into senior high. At this point, you subconsciously choose who you are based upon your surroundings rather than what’s on the inside. It’s easy to label yourself where you find it most comfortable, as it’s difficult to explore yourself when everything around you remains the same. Things quickly change when graduation comes around. It’s at this point that you realize that everything that has always been familiar to you: your friends, classmates, teachers, classrooms, hallways, all of the structure you have ever known, disappears. You are on your own after this.
It’s likely that when you go to college, you’ll be fairly alone. Chances are that yes, you do know some familiar faces around campus and maybe even a friend or two from high school attend the same college you do. But overall, everything and everyone is pretty foreign. It’s intimidating at first, but you’ll go out the first weekend and meet some people, and you will think they’re pretty great, and for the next couple weekends you will continue to hang out with them. That is until you realize you’re not in high school anymore and that there are other people that you are starting to click with more. Oddly enough, these new friends are not much like your high school friends, they weren’t even in the same sports as you or didn’t watch the same television series faithfully every week. They haven’t heard of your hometown, and you’ve never been to theirs. But somehow, you find this connection with people who were once complete strangers to you. On a campus with such diversity you allow your eyes to wander. Looking at what people are wearing, noticing how people react with one another, seeing all these people that have no idea who you are. They don’t know your past and certainly don’t have the right to tell you who you have been and what you’re supposed to be. This is the point you start to find youself.
So you start expressing yourself a little more, trying things out, some things stick, some things don’t. You go get that piercing you’ve been thinking about for awhile but never said it aloud to anyone. Your style starts changing a bit and you chop of your hair. You’re starting fresh, you’re finding out who you are. Unfortunately, those who have always known you, they don’t care for change much. Many of those back home have stuck to their same surroundings, schedule, lifestyle and they find it hard to accept your alterations. “Stop trying to be something you’re not,” they'll confront you. Or, “You’ve changed." On the surface, you won’t act bothered by their criticism, you won’t let them win. Because you know who you actually are. Right? You are just finding yourself. Aren’t you? You will reflect on what they say and will question yourself before bed at night. What if you actually are being unrealistic? What if you’re just confused? Maybe you should just go back to the person everyone has ever known. Are you sure you want to continue this journey? You’ve now talked yourself into an identity crisis.
It’s at this point you have to find the strength within yourself to make the decision whether you’re ready to continue exploring yourself or if it would be easier for you to just take a step back to what’s safe and comfortable. It’s so important for everyone in this situation to use their first instinct. It means more than you would think. Don’t overthink anything, let things fall into place and never second guess your gut. Overtime, any change you undergo with eventually become apart of who you are. It just takes time. You only get one shot at living in this world, why waste all of your potential on “fitting in?” Like we’ve always been told, “just be who you are,” especially when the universe gives you the opportunity to truly do so.